Equus – Theatre Royal Bath REVIEW

Powerful and uncomfortable, Equus will make you squirm in your seat without daring to take your eyes away from the stage.

This Ned Bennett adaptation of the Peter Shaffer play has breathed new life into the modern classic that is Equus. The stripped back set and interpretation of the script force the audience into an engrossing and intimate world.

EQUUS - Ira Mandela Siobhan as Nugget and Ethan Kai as Alan Strang - Credit The Other Richard.jpg

The play follows the story of Alan Strang (Ethan Kai) as he meets psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Zubin Varla) who attempts to discover why Alan violently blinded six horses in one night with a hoof pick. It soon appears that Alan’s love for horses runs a little deeper than just having posters on his wall.

EQUUS - Ethan Kai as Alan Strang - Photo credit The Other Richard

The themes of obsession and sexual repression soon emerge from Alan’s relationship with horses and are mirrored in his parents relationship, after finding his dad in a porn cinema, and in the therapist’s relationship as Martin soon sees similarities between Alan and himself.

EQUUS - Zubin Varla as Martin Dysart - Photo credit The Other Richard.

The relationship between Martin and Alan is fascinating. The psychiatrist being omnipresent in Alan’s dreams and fantasies makes for an intimate bond that you watch develop. Both give strong performances excelling in both lengthy monologues and dialogue between them.

EQUUS - Z Varla (Martin Dysart), E Kai (Alan Strang), S Kumar (Dora Strang), R Fitch (Frank Strang) - Credit The Other Richard.

They are supported by an ensemble of six who play both supporting characters such as Alan’s parents and potential love interest as well as the horses in the stable. A special mention must go to Shelly Maxwell as movement director. The physicality of the horses she has created is second to none. The similarities were striking and unmistakable, and you quickly began to believe that you were watching animals.

EQUUS - Ethan Kai as Alan Strang - Photo credit The Other Richard - (3)

The clinical set consists of a blank stage with a white surgical curtain as the backdrop and occasional props. The experimentation with colour, light and subtle sounds creates further layers of tension on already very tense scenes.

As stated by Guardian critic Michael Billington, this is a “landmark homoerotic play”. It is intense and intimate as well as dark and disturbing, but equally as powerful and striking. This Shaffer and Bennett combination is brilliant and I am eager for more.

TRIGGER WARNING – Equus is a psychological thriller that contains themes of violence and discussions of mental health issues. The play contains scenes of sexual violence, full frontal nudity and strong language. Strobe lighting, haze and the smoking of herbal cigarettes are used in this production. Age guidance: 14+ 

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